A coalition of Klamath River Indian tribes, fishermen, conservationists and local supporters (including Cascadia Rising Tide) ramped up their campaign to remove four fish-killing dams on the river today when they held a spirited protest in front of PacifiCorp’s headquarters in Portland.
The “Day of Action Against PacifiCorp” started off at 8:30 a.m. on September 18th when local activists hung a banner proclaiming “Warren Buffett Kills Salmon, Jobs and Communities” over Interstate-84 in solidarity with the Tribes. Around 200 people marched from Holiday Park in Portland at noon to converge in front of PacifiCorp for a press conference at 1 p.m.
After the conference, 70 people occupied the area in front of the headquarters, effectively shutting down the front entrance to PacifiCorp as company staff locked the doors. Police decked out in riot gear guarded the building, but no arrests were made. The dam removal advocates, including American Indian Movement (AIM) activists, commercial fishermen and other local supporters, pounded on the doors of the building, disrupting business at the power company.
“We are here to let PacifiCorp and Warren Buffett know that there will be no business as usual for PacifiCorp as long as there is no business as usual for Klamath River communities,” said Chook Chook Hillman of the Karuk Tribe and a member of the Klamath Justice Coalition.
Earlier this year Mr. Hillman confronted the ultimate owner of PacifiCorp’s Klamath Dams, billionaire Warren Buffett, at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders’ meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. After camping out in line overnight, Hillman was able to address Buffett before a crowd of 30,000 shareholders.
“I asked Buffett why he has donated money to solve issues of poverty and disease in the Third World while he is creating those very conditions in my back yard,” said Hillman. “He dodged the question.”
Warren Buffett has stalled the removal of the four outmoded dams that are “choking life from the waters and communities of the Klamath Watershed,” said Craig Tucker, Karuk Tribe spokesman.
“The Klamath Dams block over 300 miles of salmon spawning habitat, heat water temperatures to levels lethal to salmon, and create reservoirs full of toxic blue-green algae,” stated Tucker. “Tribes, environmentalists, fishermen, and farmers have all asked PacifiCorp negotiate terms for dam removal as parties seek to develop a comprehensive approach to restoring the river and the rural economies that depend on it.”
PacifiCorp has on several occasions suggested that they are willing to negotiate a dam removal agreement, but Tucker and other dam removal advocates attending the protest remain dubious of the company’s sincerity.
“PacifiCorp has repeatedly taken actions to delay the relicensing process and denied any responsibility for the fish kills and toxic algae blooms we see on the Klamath. PacifiCorp should work with Tribes, farmers, and fisherman to remove these fish killing and costly dams,” said Georgianna Myers, a member of the Yurok Tribe.
The Klamath Justice Coalition and their partners, through their protest and press conference, hoped to educate the public about the impacts of the dams and to highlight the fact that economic reports from federal and state agencies show dam removal to be cheaper than relicensing. They want to hold PacifiCorp and Warren Buffett accountable for destroying the Klamath fishery and polluting the Klamath River with toxic microcystis algae.
The campaign to remove Klamath dams occurs as West Coast salmon fisheries are in their greatest-ever crisis. The Bush and Schwarzenegger administrations, for the first time in history, closed commerical and recreational salmon fishing in ocean waters off Oregon and California this year. Salmon fishing in Central Valley rivers is also closed this year with the exception of a short season from November 1 through December 31 on a small stretch of the Sacramento River.
This year’s closures were caused by the collapse of the Sacramento River fall run chinook salmon, until very recently the most robust of West Coast salmon runs. However, commercial salmon fishing off California Oregon in 2006 was severely restricted by the dramatic decline of Klamath River.
The 2006 Klamath River salmon disaster was the legacy of the Klamath Fish Kill of September 2002, when over 68,000 adult salmon perished in disease spurred by low, warm water conditions caused by a change in water policy by the Bush administration. In that spring and every year since then, the vast majority of Klamath juvenile salmon have perished due to disease infection spurred by continuing poor water quality.
Although the Bush and Schwarzenegger administrations claim the collapse of Central Valley chinook salmon populations from 800,000 in 2002 to less than 60,000 this year is the result of ocean conditions, fishing groups, Tribes and independent scientists say the collapse is spurred by massive water exports from the beleagured California Delta in recent years. A record 6.4 milllion acre feet was exported out of the Delta in 2005, much of it exported to irrigate drainage-impaired land that should have never been irrigated – and should be immediately taken out of production.
For more information about the Klamath Justice Coalition, contact, Georgianna Myers, spokesperson for the Klamath Justice Coalition, (707) 599-0877, or Craig Tucker, Spokesman for the Karuk Tribe, 916-207-8294.